Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2017-07-19
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

'Havana in Chicago' raises money for impoverished Cubans
by Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer
2014-07-21

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

      More Photos


The music of Cuba echoed onto the street in front of Sidetrack July 19. A pea-green 1951 Chevrolet Bel Air parked there sported the Cuban flag and a sign that promised visitors to the bar authentic dishes from the island provided by Paladar restaurant, refreshing mojitos and the Afro-Cuban rhythms of the renowned Latin Inspiration band until long into the evening.

The sights, sounds and smells of a Havana street had been transferred to North Halsted all to raise money and awareness about the plight of children and families living less than 100 miles from the southern coast of Florida.

While some once lauded the Cuban healthcare system as a model for the Americas and it became a popular destination for health tourism, the reality for the island's people is quite different.

In 2012, Al Jazeera reporter Lucia Newman noted terrible shortages in medicine in Cuba—with drugs as simple as Aspirin having to be purchased on the black market. She described long waits to see low-paid doctors in "hospitals where there was often no running water," she said. "The toilets did not flush, and the risk of infections—by the hospital's own admission—was extremely high."

In February 2014, the Miami Herald reported that Cuban ruler Raul Castro's government had dramatically cut social spending, leading to a poverty rate of 26 percent, a massive shortage of homes and the islands' elderly citizens receiving an average pension of $10 per month.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based organization First Hand Aid works to provide financial assistance to Cuban families, supplies pediatric hospitals with goods ranging such as needles and desperately needed bandages, antibiotics and cancer drugs. It even assists with over-the-counter medications, gloves, soap and toothpaste and supplements general hospitals in rural areas such as Guines which are ill equipped to deal with diseases such as a 2013 cholera outbreak that threatened the entire community. First Hand Aid delivers food to Cuba's seniors whose children and grandchildren have long since fled the island. They have been left in squalor, unable to put food on the table or leave their own home without help.

The work has been a passion of co-founder and Executive Director of First Hand Aid Marc Bohland for more than 14 years. "I worked in a hospital with Dr. Eddie Marcial," Bohland recalled. "He had escaped from Cuba in an inner tube. I asked if I could help him and so I went down to Cuba and lived with his family and worked in their village. One year begot another and we built an organization together. Once you get involved with Cuba, you can't stop."

Bohland's organization is close to the heart of Sidetrack owners Pepe Pena and Art Johnston, who became involved with First Hand Aid four years ago. Pena left Cuba as a teenager in 1962 having witnessed the repercussions of the Cuban revolution and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. "It was really insane," Pena told Windy City Times. "People were pointing the finger at others who were then sent to the firing squad. There was no system. People were rounded up and put into stadiums to make sure that no one would rise up and help the invasion."

First Hand Aid maintains that Cuba has since been "frozen in time. Families struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table," it says on its website. "To the Cuban people, it can seem like the world has moved on without them."

"There is no question that—even before [Fidel] Castro—Cuba had excellent health care," Johnston said. "But the reality today is that health care is limited by the U.S. embargo. Any modern drug that originates in the United States cannot go to Cuba. Then you have many of the doctors there leaving the profession because the pay is so low."

"We also reach out to the gay community in Cuba," Bohland added. "Although government oppression of gay people has changed considerably, there's still a long way to go. Art and Pepe have given the gay leaders down there some contact with the outside world."

People don't have to simply take Pena and Johnston's word as proof of the dire conditions in Cuba. Bohland takes groups of people over to the island to see for themselves. They have been composed of church organizations, doctors, lawyers and even baseball teams.

Once a year, Pena and Johnston also make the humanitarian journey with a group of 10-18 people. "These trips are totally legal with the Cuban and U.S. governments," Johnston said. "Most of our group is from the gay and lesbian community. We go for about a week, work in the hospitals and deliver meals to seniors who have no food. All the people who have gone with me have asked when they can go back."

This is the second year that Sidetrack's Havana in Chicago has been in operation as a fundraiser for First Hand Aid. Last year, it brought in $25,000. With silent-auction donations from businesses across the city, and visitors in Panama hats lining the bar, Johnston said he had high hopes for the evening. "We are offering Americans the opportunity to make a giant difference is other people's lives," he said. "And they are a wonderful people. Every Cuban has family in the United States. Despite what their government has told them, there is not one ounce of antipathy towards Americans. The most wonderful thing about Cuba is that it's filled with Cubans."

For more information about First Hand Aid please go to firsthandaid.org .


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

The Crib to reinstate overnight-shelter services on July 26 2017-07-18 - Officials from The Night Ministry announced, on July 17, that The Crib, the organization's emergency shelter for persons ages 18-24 in Lake View, ...


Gay News

Chicago Foundation for Women Awarded $1 Million MacArthur Foundation Grant 2017-07-17 - ( July 17, 2017 ) — Chicago Foundation for Women has received a $1 million, four-year grant from the John D. and Catherine ...


Gay News

Chicago Foundation for Women makes grants of $900K+ to women's, girl's programs 2017-07-10 - CHICAGO, IL ( July 10, 2017 ) — Chicago Foundation for Women ( CFW ) announced 68 grants totaling $913,550 to support access ...


Gay News

Kathy Bates to headline Oct. 2 event 2017-06-21 - Kathy Bates, an Academy Award-winning actress ( Misery ) and two-time cancer survivor, will headline the 2017 Fall Benefit Luncheon hosted by the ...


Gay News

TPAN open house to showcase new office, partnership with Howard Brown 2017-06-13 - Chicago, IL. ( June 13, 2017 )—Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ) will celebrate the opening of its new office with an ...


Gay News

Center on Halsted gala marks 10th anniversary 2017-05-21 - According to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Center on Halsted is the "beating heart for the gay and lesbian community of the City of ...


Gay News

Dick O'Day's Big Lovely bingo to benefit Pride Action Tank 2017-05-17 - After his historic return to the Annoyance Theater ( 851 W. Belmont ) in 2015, Dick O'Day is back for one show only ...


Gay News

National Black Justice Coalition Announces Executive Director Search 2017-05-11 - CHICAGO — May 10, 2017 — National Black Justice Coalition's Executive Director and CEO Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks has announced that she will step ...


Gay News

Legal Council for Health Justice holds annual May Ball 2017-05-10 - Dr. Nabeela Rasheed's turn-of-the-century HGTV-featured home was the setting for the 3rd annual Legal Council for Health Justice's May Ball on May 6. ...


Gay News

Chicago House event shows 'Unity on the Runway' 2017-05-08 - Chicago House celebrated is 31st Annual Spring Brunch and Fashion Show at the Harold Washington Library's Winter Garden Ballroom. This year's theme ...


 



Copyright © 2017 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.